Cubs Prospect Notes: PCA and Mervis, Cubs Hitting Development Takes Off, Unheralded Prospects, Mastrobuoni, Marquez, More

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Cubs Prospect Notes: PCA and Mervis, Cubs Hitting Development Takes Off, Unheralded Prospects, Mastrobuoni, Marquez, More

Chicago Cubs

Cubs-Sox coming this afternoon from Arizona, and in the meantime, some Cubs prospect notes for you to enjoy …

  • When Pete Crow-Armstrong and Matt Mervis together get the profile treatment from the Cespedes Family BBQ guys, that is some MUST read stuff:

Though he wasn’t raised on the team like Crow-Armstrong, Mervis also always loved watching the Cubs when he was younger.

“Pete and I have talked about some of our favorite Cubs from growing up,” Mervis said. “Even when the teams weren’t great I would play with the Cubs in video games. Aramis Ramírez hit bombs. Derrek Lee hit bombs.”

“Alfonso Soriano!” Crow-Armstrong chimed in.

“Carlos Zambrano,” Mervis added. “I would make sure he was in the lineup, so I could hit bombs with him. He’d hit fourth.”

  • Bonus quote from Mervis after he and PCA rattled off a ton of guys they think are great players but who don’t get much attention: “There are so many guys that fly under the radar, because there’s so much talent in the organization.” It seems like these are the guys they mentioned, by the way: Jake Slaughter, Luis Verdugo, BJ Murray, Jared Young, Yonathan Perlaza, Darius Hill, and Levi Jordan.
  • This is a really, really compelling data point. The very short version is that Cubs hitters’ quality of contact in the minors improved DRAMATICALLY from 2021 to 2022:
  • I think we focus so much on the leaps and bounds in pitching development improvement for the Cubs the last few years, but we should keep in mind that last year looked really good on the positional side, too. Some of that is improvements in the talent pool, but also some of it is improvements in player development.
  • Cubs third base coach Willie Harris, who also works with the outfielders, is not slowing down in his HYPPPPPE of Pete Crow-Armstrong. “From a defensive standpoint — and I will go out on a limb and say this — he’s going to be one of the top-10 center fielders to ever play out there,” Harris told the Tribune. “That’s what I see in him. That’s my expectation from him. He’s very, very good defensively. It’s fun to watch. PCA’s in a different league, man, and I’m not saying that to knock anyone. … I mean, I feel like he can help our major-league club right now defensively. We have to understand the situation and stick to the process, but he’s going to be a very special player for a long time.”

Two of the named prospects that we don’t talk about as much as we could:

Ezequiel Pagan, OF. Pagan always had good bat-to-ball skills and began hitting for power last year after finally growing into his body. He can hit velocity, steal a base and play all three outfield positions, giving him a chance to rise as a fourth outfielder with his newfound offensive impact.

Zac Leigh, RHP. An 18th-round pick out of Texas State in 2021, Leigh impressed in his first full season with a 96-97 mph fastball, a plus 80-83 mph slider and a hard changeup with sink out of the bullpen. He rose quickly to Double-A and could be in the Cubs bullpen by midseason.

  • Leigh, 25, rose to Double-A in his first full professional season, and had a 36.3% K rate on the year. His pitches look awesome to the eye, and he figures to be in that big group of AA/AAA relief prospects who could be the next guy to pop up into the big league bullpen.
  • Pagan was simply quite good at Myrtle Beach last year for his age 21 season, hitting .292/.366/.443/125 wRC+, hitting 11 homers and stealing 13 bases over his 104 games. You’d like to see him take another step forward with the power this year at High-A South Bend, which will keep him firmly on the prospecting radar.
  • I’m not sure that utility man Miles Mastrobuoni will make the Opening Day roster, but it seems likely he’ll play for the Cubs at some point this year. It’s worth remembering that Mastrobuoni was really quite good at Triple-A last year (.300/.377/.469/126 wRC+, 16 homers, 16.6% K rate), and although he was squeezed off the crowded Rays’ 40-man roster, the Cubs traded away a legit high-upside relief prospect to get him. Mastrobuoni is playing right now for Team Italy.
  • Speaking of Cubs prospects in the World Baseball Classic, Owen Caissie is impressing his veteran teammates:
  • Todd at North Side Bound points out the mild surprise that none of Daniel Palencia, Jordan Wicks, or D.J. Herz have appeared in spring games this year: “I have been thinking about the threesome who are going to do most of the heavy lifting for the rotation in Tennessee this summer. They have yet to pitch with the big league club. It’s a bit of a head scratcher for me mainly because the trio is so close to Chicago that they could be ready in a year or a little more.” Usually you do see prospects like that coming up from minor league camp, getting an inning or two. I suspect the reason we haven’t seen it this year is because the Cubs have SO MANY guys in big league camp this year, jockeying for spots at the back of the rotation or back of the bullpen, plus all the regulars who need their innings to ramp up. Not a lot of split squad days either.
  • Lefty Brailyn Marquez, who had shoulder surgery last year and was re-signed on a minor league deal, still isn’t even playing catch, per the Tribune. The 24-year-old is currently on a program of stretching and strengthening, with the Cubs trying to ensure that he doesn’t suffer a setback when he starts to throw, as he has unfortunately dealt with the last couple years. I certainly hope we see him pitch in a minor league game this year, but based on the last few seasons, I don’t think that would be the expectation. Just a real bummer of a situation.
  • This is some very, very good behind-the-scenes stuff on five Cubs pitching prospects and their work this offseason:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.